I felt moved (after a kind nudge) to do something more with the bit about wind in yesterday’s post. It turned into 1700+ words about how we like to think we enrich the landscape. Once I was already moving across the page, I felt inspired to poke at a newer piece. One about geology and geography and my many breakups. That ended up being ten pages, and it felt satisfying.
It was like getting out of Bikram and feeling like it was a good class. Or going on a hike and something remarkable and unexpected appears–perhaps a small thing, like a bright red mushroom, or a large thing like a sinkhole as big as a bank building. It isn’t a sensation of accomplishment exactly–because here, I’ve insisted to myself, even lying in bed and reading for three straight hours is a success. It is more like a sureness. A sudden sure-footedness. A reminder of the mission.
What do you DO? I write beautiful, thought-provoking elegies to things common and strange.
Man is it hard to write that sentence without my twitchy old-esteem wanting to add in words such as try to or take out the words beautiful and or thought-provoking (according to WHO? she says). But I’m going to leave it there, because it is true.
“…kiss the mouth that tells you, here, here is the world. this mouth, these temple bones, the still undanced cadence of vanishing.” G. Kinnell
Writing took precedence over the walk, so the walk came late again, pre dusk. The wind was not as fast or strong, but it was colder. As I headed back, I was hunched into myself when I heard a car behind me.
On these roads, where a car may pass a pedestrian once a week, it is customary to smile and wave. I looked to my right as a worn pickup slowed down. The man inside was maybe a little younger than me, his shiny, pink face split into a grin. “Do you need a ride?” The accent on the last word, to make clear the craziness of my walking around when it is so cold it is obviously going to snow later. His grin could have been a number of things, but it seemed to be genuine. He looked like “a good kid” and a “nice guy.” And while I didn’t want a ride, for just a moment I thought, isn’t it better to assume the best and accept kindness when it’s offered? And then I thought (of course I did) that if I’ve chosen poorly, and I die, at least I will have died with graciousness and thanks on my mind–which, though not directed at any particular godhead, must surely count for something.
This was all very fast, the thinking.
Because then, having already tripped on a stone darkly, I almost imagined for a moment all the ways that that death might go. All the ways we can imagine our rages manifest. Ropes, cigarette burns, “foreign objects,” deep cuts and shallow. It is impossible not to. Isn’t it (reassure me)?
I smiled back what I hoped was a genuine and not maniac smile, and I said, “Gosh, thanks but no. I’m out here for my health if you can believe it!” This is how you talk to a stranger in the country if you don’t want to let on that you’ve just imagined them a horrific sadist/murderer. This is how you speak neighborly.
He touched the brim of his gimmie cap for just a moment with the side of an index finger, not a tipping exactly, but a remnant of it. And, his smile never fading, made the tiniest arch with his eyebrows while he tucked his chin slightly, like, well, I’ve seen crazier and you’ll probably be alright, so I’ll leave you to it. This is how you acknowledge an obvious out-of-towner who seems nonetheless harmless. Later I might be “one of those crazy researchers over on the steppe” over chicken fried steak, or I might be nothing at all. It wasn’t that meaningful, less than a minute.
Reading Lia Purpura today, after a bit more Pollan, has me all voicey and contemplative. (As an aside: Isn’t that funny? I do this in person, too. It’s a tic–I’ll start mimicking you after 15 minutes of in-depth conversation. It means I have to be careful about with whom and how I spend my time.)
Rough Likeness is her third collection of essays, and it feels like she’s more academic here then in On Looking. These essays think; they do not do. They wander and worry through an idea–such as the things that inexplicably make her sad, like pedestrian bridges or a camp coloring book in a Party City. In another she wonders how a mushroom could look like a raccoon for a moment in the low light of an autumn afternoon. They don’t “tell stories” so much as “describe a process of devoted thoughtfulness.” And her poet’s voice is never absent.
On describing the act of reading an especially long sentence from Swann’s Way: “Here is a sentence that withstands me, to which I submit, a sentence that couldn’t have known its own end when it started, as I cannot know its end as I being reading. And I am wholly delighted by the jittery plunge I must take. By the mirror the sentence becomes, in which I see my own surprise.
“I love a line cast cleanly out, a shape gently filling the neat spot prepared for it.
“And I love a veering, careening ride, the ramble and torque and purifying shock of landing hard.”
I also have managed to add to the desk rock garden and knit a few more inches. I think the garden will be done before the sweater, but that’s okay, too.